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MEDICAL IMPORTANCE OF AMALTAS( CASSIA FISTULA) TREE

Health Talk By Dr Chander Shekhar Sharma, MD (Ayu.)

Cassia fistula is grown as ornamental tree and is easily identifiable by its beautiful yellow flowers that grow on long pendulous racemes. Cassia fistula commonly known as Amaltas.This tree is native to India. It flowers during hot weather from April to May. The leaves will fall periodically, only to be replaced with new foliage. Leaves are absent at flowering time. After flowering fruits are developed in the form of cylindrical pods. These are initially green and later turn black. The tree propagates through mature seeds. Fertile flower are followed by pendulous, cylindrical, indehiscent pod, up to 60-100 cm long and 1.5-2 cm wide, with a pungent odor and containing several seeds. Fruits are initially green turning dark brown as they mature. Seeds are lenticular, ellipsoid, 8-9 mm long, glossy light brown in color and lustrous. When fresh ,the pods contain a black pulp which on drying adheres to the septa. Sticky brown pulp inside the pods has been used in herbal medicines. Maturing of the fruits starts from December to March.In India, Cassia can be seen growing along the roadsides, in parks and gardens. In Ayurveda, this tree is used for treating constipation, fever, digestive troubles and skin diseases. Its fruit pulp along with some other herbs is cooked in water to prepare decoction which is used to treat fever and related complications.

As per Ayurveda Rasa (Taste): Tikta/Bitter,Guna (Characteristics): Guru/Heavy

Virya (Potency): Cold,Vipaka (Post Digestive Effect): Katu/Pungent,Effects on Tridoshas (Humor): Pacifies Vata and Pitta. Cassia fistula has the liver protecting, inflammation reducing, cough suppressing, wound healing, anti-microbial and constipation curing properties.Scientific studies confirms the liver protecting properties of leaves. One such study done on rats with paracetamol induced hepatotoxicity, the leaves exhibited significant the liver protective effect by lowering the serum levels of transaminases (SGOT and SGPT), bilirubin and alkaline phosphatase (ALP). Studies also confirms the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activities of Cassia fistula and thus supports the traditional use of this tree in the treatment of rheumatism, gout, etc. or the medicinal purpose, all parts of the tree viz. roots, bark, leaves, fruits are used. The fruit pulp is a medicine for curing constipation. The fruit pulp is consumed in the evening after meals in a dose of 5-10 grams to get relief from intestinal worms and constipation. This also gives relief in indigestion, abdominal gas and strengthens intestine. The leaves are also laxative. For curing constipation, tender leaves are cooked and eaten as leafy vegetables. The leaves are rubbed on skin in case of severe itching. The decoction is given to treat fever, inflammation and bacterial infections.In the present scenario of increasing environmental pollution globally, health of people living in developed as well as developing countries is always at risk giving rise to chronic and infectious diseases alarmingly. Even, the number of multi-drug resistant microbial strains and the appearance of strains with reduced susceptibility to antibiotics are continuously increasing which is a big threat to health of living community throughout the world. All parts of the plantCassia fistula Linn. have medical uses and are used in different disease conditions. The root of Cassia fistula Linn. is prescribed as a tonic, astringent, febrifuge and strong purgative . The extract of leaves of the plant has been found to  reduce mutagenicity in E. coli . Its leaves are laxative and are used externally as emollient, a poultice is used for chilblains, in insect bites, swelling, rheumatism and facial paralysis . The leaves are used in jaundice, piles, rheumatism ulcers and also externally skin eruptions, ring worms, eczema. The leaves and bark mixed with oil are applied to pustules, insect bites . The roots of the plant are used in chest pain, joint pain, migraine and blood dysentery. A large number of phytochemical compounds have been found to be present in the plant Cassia fistula Linn. Pulp of the pod has been found to contain anthraquinone glycosides, sennosides A& B, rhein and its glucoside, barbaloin, aloin, formic acid, butyric acid and their ethyl esters and oxalic acid. Presence of pectin and tannin is also reported . Seeds of the plant have been found to give galactomannan free sugars and free amino acids; flowers have been reported to give ceryl alcohol, kaempferol, rhein and a bianthraquinone glycoside, fistulin; leaves have been found to give free rhein, its glycosides- sennosides A & B . The pulp contains sugar, tannic matter, albuminous starch, oxalate of calcium and other important constituents. Leaves and flowers contain anthraquinone, tannin, oxyanthraquinone, rhein and volatile oils. Pulp of the plant consists of sugar, gum, astringent matter, gluten, coloring matter and water. Root bark besides tannins contains phlobaphenes and oxyanthraquinone compounds.The methanol extract of leaves of C. fistula (collected from India in 1995) was investigated for its effect on a cough model induced by sulfur dioxide gas in mice and the extract exhibited significant, dose-dependent anitussive activity compared with the control.The methanol extract of buds of C. fistula was investigated for its antipyretic action on normal body temperature and yeast-induced pyrexia (fever) in rats. The extract showed significant activity in both the models at doses of 200 and 400 mg/kg. At a dose level of 200 mg/kg, the extract caused significant lowering of normal body temperature up to 3 hrs.The antioxidant properties of 90% ethanol extracts of leaves and 90% methanol extracts of stem bark, pulp and flowers from Cassia fistula were investigated. The antioxidant activity was found in the decreasing order of stem bark, leaves, flowers and pulp and was well correlated with the total polyphenolic content of the extracts. The reason for low antioxidant activity in the flower and pulp fractions could be the presence of some pro-oxidants such as chrysophanol and reducing sugars which dominate the antioxidant compounds present in the extracts. Thus, the stem bark had more antioxidant activity in terms of reducing power, – inhibition of peroxidation, O and DPPH radical 2 scavenging ability .The in-vitro effect of Cassia fistula infusion on isolated guinea-pig ileum was studied where the acute and sub-chronic toxicity of the infusion of C. fistula and Cassia acutifolia sp. Del. Pod-(Senokot tablet) as the reference drug were also determined. C. fistula infusion, when compared with senokot tablet, showed that the infusion of Cassia fistula pods possessed very low levels of toxicity, having the LD of 6600 mg/kg 50 and also without any pathological effects on the organs examined microscopically. The extract of leaves of C. fistula has been evaluated for anti-inflammatory activity using corrageenan-, histamine- and dextran- induced paw oedema assays in rats and the activity was compared with that of phenylbutazone. It has been noted that the extract exhibited potent anti-inflammatory activity against all phlogistic agents .The methanolic extract of C. fistula leaves was studied for its wound healing property in the form of an ointment in two types of wound models in rats; excision wound model and incision wound model. The ointment of the leaf extract of two different concentrations (5 and 10% w/w ointment of leaves extract in simple ointment base) responded significantly in both models of wounds tested.The leaf extract of Cassia fistula was evaluated for antifungal activity against Candida albicans where extracts of the leaves of Cassia fistula were prepared in acetone, diethyl ether and methanol for testing and the antifungal activity was performed by paper disc diffusion assay. The results of the study indicated that the methanol extract showed highest activity i.e., up to 21 mm which was comparable with the standard  antifungal antibiotic, clotrimazol.The hypocholesterolemic and hypoglycemic effects of the hexane extract of stem bark of C. fistula, were found in normal and streptozotocin induced diabetic rats.The fractionation through bio-guided anti-leishmanial activity of the dichloromethane extract of Cassia fistula fruits (Leguminosae) led to the isolation of the active isoflavone biochanin A, identified by spectroscopic methods. This compound showed 50% effective concentration (EC50) value of 18.96 micro g/mL against promastigotes of Leishmania (L.) chagasi. Medicinal plants have been used as remedies for human diseases for centuries. The use of medicinal plants to heal chronic complex diseases, including infectious ones, has been extensively applied by people worldwide. In the present scenario of emergence of multiple drug resistance to human pathogenic organisms, there is a necessity to search for new antimicrobial substances from other sources including plants which may be useful in developing safe, long acting antimicrobial drugs based on medicinal plants / herbs as alternative and complementary medicine for mankind in treatment and prevention of infectious diseases.

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